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Robert Ellis

Robert Ellis grew up in Northampton, England, during World War Two. After the war ended, he studied at the Northampton School of Art, and then at the Royal College of Art in London. In 1947, he was conscripted into the Royal Air Force, where he worked as a photographer, processing aerial composite images. This view of the landscape from above, as a segmented, flattened space, made a lasting impression on Ellis, informing much of his subsequent painting. Ellis moved to New Zealand in 1957, where he taught at the Elam School of Fine Arts until 1994.

In 1965, Ellis attended Pine Taiapa’s Whakairo and Tukutuku Residential School, where he began to integrate elements of traditional Maori art and design into his practice. A year later Ellis married Elizabeth Aroha Mountain, at Otira marae in the Bay of Islands. He continued to teach and exhibit over the next three decades and produced public artworks such as the North Island Itinerary mural at Auckland Airport and the Aotea Tapestry on display at the Aotea Cultural Centre in Auckland. Ellis’ work explores the ever-changing nature of New Zealand’s landscape and cultural history, often deploying an eclectic personal symbolism that draws on European, Christian and Maori sources.